Photos by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen

By MIKE GAROFOLA
Illinois Matmen

As the state tournament goes deeper into the weekend, it’s the high profile players and wrestling teams who can be seen on the center stage more often than others.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some of the smaller guys on the 1A guest list.

Saul Trejo (106) and Nicholas Renteria (120) look to continue the recent surge of IC-Catholic Prep after terrific individual efforts from both lads put them one step closer to the Grand March.

Saul Trejo Jr.
Saul Trejo Jr.

Trejo (26-3) the No. 1 man at 106, looked strong during his two bouts on Thursday here at State Farm Center, while his teammate (Renteria) stunned No. 1 Cameron Clark (Illinois Bluffs, 39-1) to join Trejo in today’s 1A quarterfinals.

“There’s no doubt our room, teammates, coaching staff, and having Saul as my work-out is the reason I am still alive for a state title,” said an elated Renteria (36-7) – who will now face No. 4 Phoenix Blakely (35-7) the outstanding freshmen from Dakota.

“(Nick) and I want to continue the tradition the guys before us (set) – so that’s what it’s all about for us tomorrow,” added Trejo.

Nicholas Renteria
Nicholas Renteria

His mention of tradition comes in the names of three previous men who came through the program: two-time state champion, Joey Bianchini, as well as David and Victor Vargas, who together collected (5) medals over three season to put tiny IC-Catholic Prep on the wrestling map.

RenteriaVsClark03

Aurora Christian freshmen Chris Moore (41-8) put himself on perhaps a bigger map when he shocked No. 2 Chad Bellis (Bloomington, 49-4) in his Thursday quarterfinal to advance.

Moores’ brilliant effort during his 9-3 victory over the returning 106-pound state champ brought this from AC head coach, Justin Pearch.

“I knew (Bellis) from being around him at the national level (and) he’s a strong, tough and wonderful wrestler with a lot of talent – but we have always believed in our guy as well, I guess I didn’t think he would be as dominate as he was in that match,” said Pearch.

A combination of superb ‘duck-unders’ might have been the secret to the success of Moore, who joins returning state champions from AC, Joel Mylin and Noah Villarrel, as well as Alex Knauf in the semifinals.

Back on the 1A beat, it was more of the same from No. 1 Tristan Daugherty (Peoria Notre Dame, 126, 46-0) who hopes to end a streak of being a three-time third place medal winner.

A little further down the bracket is another undefeated rival, Nik Jimenez (Harvard) who enjoys the same record as Daugherty, the favorite here.

The top half of the 138 division is missing the No. 5 and 6 rated guys, after No. 5 Rayce Zike was sent off by No. 1 Dallas Krueger (Rockridge, 43-0) – and so afterwards, when unranked Owen Gully (32-6) from LeRoy dashed the hopes of No. 6 Adell Gamboa (39-4) from Reed-Custer with a pin.

It will be Krueger versus Gully in the semifinal.

Continuing in 1A, Alex Carillo (32-4) is closer to a state medal after a wild 17-11 victory over Jeff Hermann (Robinson) to advance forward, where he will meet No. 1 Nolan Throne of Rockridge.

“Alex is just a classy kid, and we’re extremely proud ot have him in our room and program, and will miss him tremendously,” said Nazareth Academy head coach, Denis Laughlin.

Carillo is the first four-time state qualifier in program history, and recently starred for the football team last fall that was runner-up at the 7A state tournament.

Johnsburg senior Justin Peake (23-2) third a year ago here, drew closer to a spot in Saturday nights final when he recorded his second pin of the day at 182.

That the affable Peake is still alive is a wonder since suffering a torn meniscus in the first football game of the season – one in which Peake would play through, before having it surgically repaired after the fall season.

“The (knee) swells up from time-to-time, and it always doesn’t feel very good, but I’ve gotten so used to it – it’s no big deal at this point,” says the No. 2 rated Peake.

Over in 2A, all of the remaining men in the front draw at 106 have 40 victories on the season – the last to claim that magic number was Gylon Sims, the fine freshmen from Joliet Catholic Academy.

In a thrilling, back-and-forth quarterfinal with No. 3 Kai Neumark (39-2) of Deerfield, the No. 4 rated Sims prevailed 12-10, after forced to chase a 8-4 second period deficit.

“It wasn’t an easy match, but I know that being in a room with the great coaching staff, and teammates we have (plus) having a guy like DJ (Hamiti) who leads the way with an unbelievable work ethic is the reason I was able to get out of the tough match to advance,” said Sims.

Sims drew even at 10-10 midway through the third period before going ahead for good with 23 seconds left in regulation.

“We had complete confidence in (Sims) – even when he gave up that five-pointer in the second period,” begins head coach, Ryan Cumbee.

“We have complete confidence in (him) he works hard, is a sponge in and out of the room, and we really believe the non-conference schedule we have in place is the reason he was able to come through when the pressure is on.”

The 145-pound 2A quarterfinal between No. 1 Kyle Schickel (Lemont, 35-3) and No. 6 Cole Watkins (36-10) came to a breathtaking finish for the Lemont faithful when Schickel broke open at hard fought contest with a pin at 7:54.

Next up for Schickel is No. 3 Peyton Timmons (Crystal South, 34-4) who was sharp in his two bouts, as was teammates, Christian Olsen, 113, 29-3) after his second straight state title and Shane Moran (152) who faces Hamiti in his semifinal.

The North Suburban Conference had its ups and downs in the lower weights on this first day of action, but at the upper weights, the news was good – beginning at 170 where league rivals No. 2 Joey Jens (Grayslake Central, 39-6) meets No. 4 Kurtis Smith (40-8) in semifinal action.

Smith missed most of the season a year ago to an neck injury, but is back at 100% for the first time in his career.

At 182, 2019 third-place medal winner, and current No. 1 man, Adrien Cramer (Grayslake Central, 37-1) is on course to advance into the final after watching his older brother (Alex) fall short in the finals last February.

Alex is at Old Dominion this fall – the same place in which Adrien has already committed to.

Niall Schoenfelder (41-3) whose older brother Patrick won here in 2017, hopes to follow the family tradition – for him at 195 after two impressive performances on Thursday by the Antioch senior.

Wrestling begins at 8:30 with 3A quarterfinals, followed by a series of wrestle-backs competition.

Semifinals for all three classes is set to begin tonight at 7:00.